Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 58° Cloudy
News >  Spokane

NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton draws ire for anti-vaccine comments

By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review The Spokesman-Review

Reaction to NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton’s ticket suspension from Gonzaga basketball games and his anti-vaccine comments drew swift rebuke from other NBA legends, analysts and fans.

He also collected some support for his views published in The Spokesman-Review on Sunday.

Stockton has been making headlines for his stance related to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the vaccines developed to save lives.

Two especially sharp criticisms came from former players Detlef Schrempf, whose playing career included tenures with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Portland Trail Blazers, and fellow Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Schrempf retweeted the story and said, “… I am so disappointed we have so many role models not up to the task. This is not helping!”

Abdul-Jabbar went on CNN Monday morning and discussed Stockton’s other controversial viewpoints on COVID-19.

“I think statements like that make the public look upon athletes basically as dumb jocks, for trying to explain away something that is obviously a pandemic,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

In recent months, Stockton has appeared in a vaccine conspiracy documentary and came to the defense of NBA player Kyrie Iriving, who missed part of this season because he was unvaccinated.

When Stockton refused to comply with Gonzaga’s mask mandate intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, school administration was left with little choice but to suspend the season tickets of its most accomplished player and famous alumnus.

Stockton then divulged his thoughts about the pandemic and made unfounded claims that the vaccines were responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, including more than 100 professional athletes, to a reporter on Saturday. His comments were published in full in the Sunday newspaper.

Throughout the day on Sunday, news organizations from Fox News to CNN to the New York Times and even the Daily Mail in England picked up the story and seized on Stockton’s anti-vaccine views.

Stockton’s statements also coursed through social media. His name began trending on Twitter, eventually becoming No. 2 on the platform in the United States.

Former sports commentators and current political commentators Clay Travis and Keith Olbermann both had takes on Stockton’s view to share to social media, albeit on different sides of the pandemic dialogue.

Travis – currently of Fox Sports and who also co-hosts ‘The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show’ – said on Twitter, “… Good for Stockton here, masks at games are anti-science.”

Olbermann, a former ESPN host who now has a YouTube channel, said, “It’s past time that we can simply look at paranoid, delusional conspiracy theorists like John Stockton as risks to the community in the time of COVID. We need to address their inability to act or think rationally, and for their sake and ours, compel them to get help.”

Jemele Hill, also a former ESPN employee, now hosts her own show on Vice called “Cari & Jemele (Won’t) Stick to Sports.”

She went to Twitter to compare Stockton to another athlete who has chosen not to get the COVID vaccine, Aaron Rodgers.

“John Stockton out here making Aaron Rodgers look like sane,” Hill said.

And in Salt Lake City, someone affixed a mask covering the face of the John Stockton statue honoring his legacy with the Utah Jazz. A photo of the masked statue was taken by an anonymous Utah Jazz fan, who called themselves a “firm believer in science.”

Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson called it ironic that Stockton, regarded as one of the most unselfish players in NBA history with the all-time assists record to prove it, is so “hard-headed, so stubborn and outspoken in this particular manner now.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.